Media grappling with sports rights and the changing landscape

18 April 2024 3 min. read
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Media companies are lagging behind in sports content availability, according to a survey that shows global sports fans have trouble finding or affording content. A majority also noted they would watch more sports content if it were more easily available.

The survey by strategy consulting firm Altman Solon canvassed the views of over 150 senior sports executives, rights owners, media distributors, and investors, in several different global markets and around 2,500 sports content consumers.

One of the main takeaways is that a 59% of fans said they see a lack of sports content availability. 56% said they would watch more sports content if it were available.

Media grappling with sports rights and the changing landscape

As far as typical media consumer spending, sports content remains one of the top areas of respondents’ media budgets. Younger groups make up a somewhat larger share, but overall, sports content clearly has a distinctive ability to capture media users’ attention – and their wallets.

“It seems counterintuitive that the answer to the glut of sports content is more sports content, but sports fans are hungry for more,” said Altman Solon director David Dellea.

“It turns out fans actually want more content, but often can’t afford the costs of additional subscriptions or get lost in the web of channels and streaming platforms providing content. Some form of industry consolidation seems likely, either through audience aggregation or content democratization, which should be beneficial for both the industry and sports fans.”

Sports rights

One problem for media companies is grappling with media rights for sports events, something that is not always straightforward, especially for newer streaming services, which are taking over large shares of the market.

Media grappling with sports rights and the changing landscape

Traditional broadcasters, by all measures, are falling behind. That is clear in the responses from media insiders, with 68% saying technology groups or content aggregators are the most likely to better placed to exploit live sports media rights by 2030. That is compared to a mere 16% that believe traditional broadcasters are better placed.

Media executives are largely betting on subscription-based offerings that mix a variety of sports and other content, as consumers continue to move away from legacy linear TV. A total of 65% of media insider respondents said that this monetization strategy will be the most successful in refinancing sports rights in the next five to seven years.

Media grappling with sports rights and the changing landscape

There is no doubt that premium sports rights are a huge value to media companies. Take for example the historic $8.5 billion broadcast rights deal for the English Premier League signed last year by broadcaster Sky and TNT Sports.

But the problem that media companies must solve is how to best exploit sports content (which, again, is a huge draw for consumers) within a new streaming ecosystem at a similar level to legacy media, with rights costs per subscriber increasing.

Part of the solution will need to include optimizing rights portfolios and diversifying strategies for engaging fans across viewership levels. More than 70% of the media executives polled advocate for catering to casual fans by offering more content options, like pay-per-view choices, augmented live experiences, personalized content, and ad-supported models.